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Book Chapter

Economic Prospects and Legal Aspects

January 01, 1983


Hinge belts between shelves and basins are sought by petroleum explorationists as preferred sites of hydrocarbon accumulation. Shelf-slope breaks between continents and oceans are the largest and most durable of such belts. They may or may not be associated with plate boundaries. Ancient shelf-slope breaks of this order are not, however, especially favorable sites for hydrocarbon accumulation. Hinge belts having all the structural and lithological hallmarks of true shelf-slope breaks may, however, be developed within restricted or interior basins, or they may face such basins rather than facing open oceans. These inward-facing breaks are highly favorable sites for hydrocarbon accumulation, although it is commonly impossible to demonstrate more than general coincidence between the accumulations and the breaks.

Shelf-slope breaks providing control for hydrocarbon accumulations in interior basins may survive with little or no deformation, as in the Permian Basin. Those forming parts of the margins of extensional ocean basins may similarly survive the stabilization of their basins, as along the Atlantic Ocean margin. Those within convergent margins become deformed or concealed by incorporation into orogenic belts like those along the Tethyan Sea margins. Three principal source-reservoir lithological associations are considered: carbonate-evaporite, mixed carbonate and clastic, and wholly clastic. The second is the most likely to result in large hydrocarbon accumulations in immediate proximity to the breaks; the last is least likely to do so. Notable examples described herein are: (1) the inner foothills fields of Iran and Iraq and the Golden Lane-Reforma-Campeche fields of Mexico, representing the carbonate-evaporite association; (2) the Permian basin, the Cretaceous of the U.S. outer Gulf Coast, and the fields of the Brazilian Campos and Southeast China Sea basins, representing mixed lithological associations; (3) the Arkoma and Upper Assam Valley basins as deformed representatives; and (4) the northwest Australian shelf and the Texas Gulf Coast Eocene breakover as undeformed representatives of the clastic facies association.

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SEPM Special Publication

The Shelfbreak: Critical Interface on Continental Margins

Daniel Jean Stanley
Daniel Jean Stanley
Division of Sedimentology Smithsonian Institution
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George T. Moore
George T. Moore
Chevron Oil Field Research Company La Habra California
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SEPM Society for Sedimentary Geology
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Publication date:
January 01, 1983




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